Sunday, September 6, 2020

The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas the Twin

 
"If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save 
you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring
forth will destroy you." 
   
 The Gospel of Thomas (Nag Hammadi)
  
"Do not tell lies, and do not do what you hate,
for all things are plain in the sight of Heaven. For nothing
hidden will not become manifest, and nothing covered will remain
without being uncovered."
 
The Gospel of Thomas 


I have not thought of this  quote for a while, but it arises of late.  I used to write the first 
quote into the margins of notebooks, a reminder to myself.   The second quote also, I feel, contributes to these reflections.


The first quote above,  from the Gospel of Thomas was found  in 1945 with the Nag Hammadi Gospels, which, I believe, are among  the earliest (3rd Century A.D.) writings from the advent of  Christianity and apparently hidden because they were considered heretical after the Nicean Council. The Council of Nicaea was the first council in the history of the Christian church that was intended to address the entire body of believers - in essence, it was convened by the Emperor Constantine agreed to make Christianity the central religion of Rome, but only if the Council would determine what, exactly, the doctrine of Christianity was to be.  And as a result, many of the early Gnostic Christian groups thus became heretical, and found themselves persecuted by Rome, which was in those days a military force to be reckoned with.  The Nag Hammadi Gospels were hidden for this reason.

The most famous scriptures to come from the translation of the Nag Hammadi Gospels was the Gospel of Thomas, which is essentially described as  a collection of the sayings of Jesus.  

According to Wikipedia, the introduction to the Gospel of Thomas states that "These are the hidden words that the living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas wrote them down." Didymus (Greek) and Thomas (Aramaic) both mean "twin".   Some scholars have pointed out that there was a widespread tradition in early church documents, as well as some surviving Christian traditions, that Jesus had a twin brother, by the name of Didymos Judas Thomas, but most feel this is unlikely.    My sense is that the meaning of "twin" can be understood, from the vantage point of the early Gnostic Christianity, as a metaphor.  All are  "twins" of the great teacher, with the same potentiality and the same  origin - this idea, of course, along with most of the Gnostic sects,  would have been highly heretical as the church became an institution and developed the latter idea of Jesus as divine savior, with it's accompanying  hierarchy and later the horrifying, but effective, doctrine of the need to  "saved" by by the Church  in order to attain Heaven in the afterlife instead of terrible, eternal punishment in Hell.

But long before that evolved, Jesus of Nazareth was a visionary, healer and a great Teacher and a  social revolutionary for his time.  He  practiced  poverty and simplicity as he  taught for free in olive groves, including women as well as men among his devotees.  And it is believed by many that what he taught was  much closer to Gnostic Christianity, the Essenes, and even Buddhism than what has evolved into our time, some 2,000 years later. 
"Gnosis (from one of the Greek words for knowledge γνῶσις) is the spiritual knowledge of a saint or  mystically enlightened human being. Within the cultures of the term's provenance (Byzantine and Hellenic) Gnosis was a knowledge or insight into the infinite, divine and uncreated in all rather than knowledge strictly into the finite, natural or material world. Gnosis is a transcendental as well as mature understanding. "  Wikipedia
I've been thinking  about what Jung termed "Shadow" recently.  I believe this  saying from the Gospel of Thomas  is significant to an understanding of this concept.  I carried it about as an encouragement to be an artist, to affirm deeply the life-affirming creative impulse. But one does not have to be a professional artist to "bring forth that which is within".  




"If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you."
 
We are all creative, in fact, the need to create may be our most profound human drive, right up there with sex and reproduction (which, if you think about it, is all about creation as well).   We come into the world with this energy, this drive, some even say we each come into the world with a creative destiny, a "soul purpose".  We are channels and depositories of creative energy, and through expression of creative energy we are affirmed, healed, we learn, we connect with the world and each other, and we're inspired.  It's the life force.  An individual's unique integrity, personal truth, is also deeply connected to the creative force.


"If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you."


Creative energy denied becomes toxic, stagnant, destructive. I believe Jesus was truly revolutionary in this profound statement. To live without responding to one's authentic creative impulse and innermost drive to a meaningful life is to live with despair that can become carcinogenic, a breeding ground of physical,emotional and psychic disease and destructive social harm. When we deny  authentic expression, when we lie to ourselves and by extension, to others,  we do a great damage to our innermost being.

"Do not tell lies, and do not do what you hate, for all things are plain in the sight of Heaven."

This also is a revolutionary statement for the time Jesus lived in, and a revolutionary statement for our time. To "do what you hate" is to live a hateful life, without personal integrity.  Something that people can become habituated to, something they can and will eventually self-justify.  From that arises true destructive power.

"For nothing hidden will not become manifest, and nothing covered will remain without being uncovered." 

Here the Gospel of the Twin is saying that we live in a Quantum universe.Nothing is really hidden. What is denied (or unconscious) will still manifest, what is seemingly hidden from ourselves or others is nevertheless perceived on unconscious levels.  We're all connected, integral, telepathic.   All things manifest through the creative potential we possess  - we are all creative and collectively co-creative.  But those forces are neutral - they can manifest as positive or negative, consciously or unconsciously. 

I guess what my interpretation of this is is  that one must take responsibility for the marvelous  font and spilling forth of  of creative force that each of  us is innately gifted with.


   

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The Minds of Trees...................

tall-trees-of-redwood-national-park by pierre-leclerc

I move among the ankles 
of forest Elders, tread
their moist rugs of moss,
duff of their soft brown carpets.
Far above, their arms are held
open wide to each other, or waving
what they know, what
perplexities and wisdoms they exchange,
unknown to me as were the thoughts

of grownups when in infancy I wandered
into a roofed clearing amidst
human feet and legs and the massive
carved legs of the table,
the minds of people, the minds of trees
equally remote, my attention then
filled with sensations, my attention now
caught by leaf and bark at eye level
and by thoughts of my own, but sometimes
drawn to upgazing-up and up: to wonder
about what rises so far above me into the light. 

Denise Levertov, From Below